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Update: November, 2001
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Karen's camera
  Linda and Ursula at work.

Update from the field:
by Historians Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith

A Case of Frontier House Fever

One afternoon in mid-December 2000, Ursula received a telephone call from Micah Fink, associate producer of FRONTIER HOUSE, a call that set us on a year-long adventure. Micah had seen our books in western history -- in particular PIONEER WOMEN and FRONTIER CHILDREN -- and his call came on the basis of his reaction to our treatment of frontier families in those books. "Did you happen to see THE 1900 HOUSE?" he asked. Indeed we had. "We're looking for historical consultants for a companion piece of sorts," he said. "We're calling it THE FRONTIER HOUSE, and we'd like to know whether you might be interested in joining us on that project."

Ursula was increasingly intrigued as Micah laid out the program's format. But being the practical half of this professional partnership, she was also more than a little skeptical. Putting one family into a house for three months in turn-of-the-twentieth-century London was one thing, but transporting three twenty-first-century American families to a facsimile of 1883 Montana Territory for five months was quite another.

Having spent nearly twenty years in Bozeman, MT, we knew firsthand the ruggedness of the terrain on which the FRONTIER HOUSE families would be living.


"Transporting three twenty-first-century American families to a facsimile of 1883 Montana Territory? Yes, she was skeptical."

A snow storm in June? Only in Frontier Valley. Click on a photo to see it enlarged.

The Way it Was

Also, having spent a good many of our Montana years researching the letters, diaries, and memoirs of 19th and early 20th-century homesteaders and conducting interviews with the children and grandchildren of many of those who'd lived the experiences the FRONTIER HOUSE families would attempt to replicate, we had a keen understanding of the difficulties those early settlers faced -- and they, after all, had been fairly proficient at such essential activities as cooking and heating with wood, milking cows and churning butter, riding horses, and plowing fields before they ever took up a homesteading claim.

What were the chances that any modern American family could cope with the conditions Micah was laying out for THE FRONTIER HOUSE experiment? Beyond that, Ursula quickly calculated the time that remained between mid-December and mid-May, when the project was scheduled to begin shooting in Montana. Five short months to get this researched, mounted, and underway? Yes, she was skeptical.

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